The future of an ambitious Raleigh startup named CellBreaker was in question two weeks ago when founder Jon Colgan entered a long-awaited interview with executives at the prestigious Silicon Valley accelerator 500 Startups.
March 31, 2015
CellBreaker Saved by 500 Startups
Raleigh company gets into prestigious and selective Silicon Valley accelerator.
Colgan no longer had the funds to pursue the business full-time. A spot in the three-month accelerator, along with the $75,000 investment that came with it, would be critical to launching the software that promises to get people out of cell phone contracts initially, and other contracts eventually (Above, he’s pictured on ABC World News Tonight helping a blogger get out of her contract).
But desperation might have been the fuel Colgan needed to move his business forward. A call late last week confirmed his spot in the spring/summer cohort of the program beginning April 20—he’s one of just 3 percent of applicants to get the chance to learn from a slew of Silicon Valley mentors including 500 Startups executives Dave McClure and Christine Tsai. The last local company to participate in the program was 2014 The Startup Factory graduate CareLuLu—after 500 Startups, it went on to raise $1.7 million.
Colgan felt confident after the interview. Topics ranged from the reasoning behind his decisions about CellBreaker to the Velcro tennis shoes he planned to buy his first child, due in July.
“We talked about the business, but we also connected on a personal level,” he says.
Colgan will travel to San Francisco with vice president of operations Jules Hill and vice president of product Justin Baker. Other CellBreaker team members may join them at times during the program. Their overall mission will be “to get as hockey stick as possible,” Colgan says. Sales and marketing will be a key focus.
“We’re trying to execute on the system that we just implemented, add users, generate revenue and speed up the turnaround time while fulfilling orders,” he says.
From 500 Startups, he hopes to learn the “black magic” of marketing. “They are known for distribution,” he says, “for getting more people aware of the brand.”
In some ways, the timing for 500 Startups is perfect. Colgan desperately needed the funds to continue paying developers and committing his own time to the business. In other ways, it’ll be a challenge. The Colgan baby is due July 13, the same month 500 Startups will host a Demo Day for its spring/summer cohort of companies.
But Colgan is admittedly optimistic about all of it. After all, the darkest period in his company’s history is now behind him.